Google becomes Topeka in April Fool's hoax

Also removes vowels from Google Gmail home page as part of annual April 1 prank

Users searching for information online have a new option today -- they can Topeka it.

Sound strange? You can thank Google and the collective sense of humor its workers use to create annual April Fool's Day pranks.

The search company this morning played an April Fool's prank on its millions of worldwide users with an announcement that it has changed its name to Topeka in honor of Topeka, Kansas. The announcement comes several weeks after the Kansas capital city unofficially changed its name to Google as part of an effort to convince the search giant to select it as a test site for its planned super-fast, fiber-optic network.

"Early last month the mayor of Topeka, Kansas stunned the world by announcing that his city was changing its name to Google. We've been wondering ever since how best to honor that moving gesture," wrote Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO of Google, or Topeka Inc., in a blog post.

"We didn't reach this decision lightly; after all, we had a fair amount of brand equity tied up in our old name," Schmidt added. "But the more we surfed around (the former) Topeka's municipal Web site, the more kinship we felt with this fine city at the edge of the Great Plains."

Google has a history of having a good time with April Fool's Day.

This year's activities also included dropping all vowels from its Gmail homepage.

Sam Schillace, Gmail engineering director, wrote in a blog post today that Google Gmail is experiencing VowelFail, or a "temporary vowel outage."

Google's April Fool's doodle
For April Fool's Day, Google and the city of Topeka, Kansas, swapped names.

"If you logged into Gmail over the last hour (or visited the Gmail homepage), you probably noticed that something looked a bit off: all the vowels are missing," wrote Schillace. "We realize this makes things difficult for all of you who rely on Gmail -- whether at home or at work -- and we're incredibly sorry. We take morphological issues like this extremely seriously."

Gmail without vowels
The login page to Google's Gmail was missing all its vowels on April Fool's Day.

The vowel outage appears to only affect the Gmail homepage and not any Gmail accounts of its users.

The prank isn't the only one by a technology company today. Sophos Inc. announced "new research" that urged companies to flood their networks with romantic fiction to distract hackers from stealing confidential data.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, send e-mail to sgaudin@computerworld.com or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed .

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